The final two days of our great time spent in Europe was taken exploring the largest city we have ever visited, Madrid. I would have guessed that Rome or Paris was larger but Madrid has over a million more residents than both.
Sandy and I were very fortunate to have friends who live in Madrid, so Juan and his lovely wife met us right at the train station. They took us to our hotel and then out to relax at a nearby tapas bar.
After an 2000-2130 dinner we toured Madrid by night. The Spanish culture really starts getting out and about around 2100 hours and restaurants start getting busy for dinner at the same time. All stay open and serve dinners through 2300 hours. Juan drove us all downtown and we saw most of the important locations in the historic city center.
This is the kings palace at night.
After a hectic drive through bumper to bumper traffic and a half hour trying to find a parking space, we parked and hit the streets with around 100,000 other folks. We saw the Jamon Museum (above) dedicated to the hustory of how and why spanish ham is cured the way it is.
After our walking tour we were back in the car again. There were traffic jams everywhere and I have no idea how Juan avoided about four seperate crashes. This photo was taken after midnight. We got home before 0100 (only because we started getting tired) and thanked our hosts for all their hospitality.
On Sunday, after a nice breakfast at the hotel we headed out to downtown Madrid on our own. We quickly located the nearby metro station and were on the subway train before you knew it. Two train changes later we were again in the heart of Madrid. This town never stops as it was again buzzing with thousands of people walking around and shopping.
Plaza Mayor was our first stop where we met up with our scheduled free tour with Sandemans NewEurope. It is a pretty neat concept. You book the free tour online then enjoy. You can tip at the conclusion or not, depending on how well your guide performed. Our guide, actually born in Argentina with Italian citizenship, was great so we rewarded him well.
Plaza Mayor was designed when the Austraians ruled Spain so it has “that architectural look” we have seen alot in Germany and Austria.
The tour wound its way through several neighborhoods for a solid three hours. The weather was in the 80’s so we headed for shade at almost every opportunity.
Our guide telling us about the oldest restaurant in Madrid.
This convent for sequestered nuns was very interesting. They made a lifelong holy vow to live in seclusion with no face to face contact with the outside world. To make some money to help run things they have taken up baking cookies and pastries. To buy them you must push a buzzer at this door during limited hours every day. The “on duty” nun looks at you on video and asks what you want. If she trusts you, she will buzz you in. Once inside you come to a small room with a round table that goes into a wall. This is where you put your money. The round table is turned and the money disappears and it turns some more and your purchased cookies and/or pastry appear. All done without breaking their holy vows and absolutely no complaints allowed!
Madrid still has quite a few historic sites leftover from when Moors ruled Spain.
Their cathedral was completed by four different planners/builders and consequently looks vastly different on all four sides. It is really quite strange looking. At the base of the cathedral you can see a portion of the historic muslim walls.
Here is what the king’s palace looks like. We were told that the structure is the largest functioning palace in Europe.
After having a nice (and expensive) late lunch downtown, we headed back on the metro to our hotel. Once there we spent some time packing our bags for tomorrow’s flight back home, then off out into the neighborhood for dinner.
This is the 72nd day of our vacation and to be quite honest we have reached that point where we are really looking forward to getting home and seeing our family and friends.
The experience has been fantastic and we were so happy to be able to share it with you. So, thanks very much for following along as now it comes time to say Buen Camino and Ciao to you and this blog.
Mark and Sandy